March 2nd 2005 03:02:40
Foraging experiment( Posts: 1; New Posts: 1 ) [ See: ComDig 2005.09 ]
Dear Dr. Goldstone,
In addition to an email I sent you personally about some bugs in your foraging program, I thought I would post some observations about resource allocation in mass-start bicycle racing.
In a bicycle race each cyclist competes not only to achieve the fastest time over the course, but also for positions which provide maximum energy savings. Such energy savings is achieved by drafting behind other cyclists, and some positions provide more energy savings benefits than others. A group of cyclists riding in sufficiently close proximity to benefit from the drafting "resource" is called a peloton.
In a peloton, competitors must achieve a balance between saving as much energy as possible by drafting, while also allocating energy resources in such a way as to advance position strategically during the race or to achieve the highest possible placing at the end of the race. During this process, certain rules of the peloton exist, such as a rider may get as close to others as possible without causing them to crash. No rider wants to crash, and this becomes a sort of golden rule of the peloton: do unto other cyclists as you would have them do to you; ie. do not deliberately cause a crash (arbitrary penalties may also be imposed for obviously and deliberately causing a crash).
So riders compete for the energy savings resource of drafting while taking some care to avoid crash-causing collisions. This means that on a course with limited physical parameters, in a certain circumstances some riders will be squeezed into positions where they get less drafting benefit than others.
Cyclists employ an interesting range of strategies in order to be situated in the best possible position. One of particular interest I will note here is the sacrifice of energy resources at certain times and in certain positions to achieve optimal drafting positions later. For example, if a rider is squeezed to the side and exposed in the wind (a position of high energy expenditure), one strategy is to sacrifice energy by accelerating to a position as close to the front as possible in order to reintegrate the peloton at the front and thereafter find drafting positions by dropping back. The cyclist has taken a calculated risk that a short-term high output will offset by greater energy savings later.
On the other hand that same cyclist may be too fatigued to advance and may have no choice but to drop all the way to the back of the peloton if riders have closed all the possible openings along the way. Or, along the way, an interesting form of cooperation may occur when other cyclists will open spaces to allow the first cyclist an opportunity to reintegrate the peloton before dropping all the way to the back. This may seem altruistic, but it also allows the cyclist who opens the gap a temporary rest or she may see the cyclist falling back as otherwise beneficial to have nearby.
In any event, I present this as a very neat example of resource competition, because it occurs in very basic and easily observable circumstances within well-defined parameters; ie. competitors in a bicycle peloton on a road with head-winds and cross winds and other obvious environmental factors that affect the allocation of finite drafting resources. A peloton may be analyzed very succinctly in terms resource competition and energy savings, and the strategies employed for efficient individual and collective allocation of these resources.